Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cow Tunnel

Rob Jackson, a classmate who lived in the Danvers Highlands during most of his childhood, recalls running through a "cow tunnel" with his friends. Recently he showed me on a map the approximate location of that old tunnel.

He says the tunnel was under Route 1,  connecting from the Endicott farm (east of Route 1) to property just below the Danvers State Hospital, in a low, nearly wetland (pasture), that seemed to be on or near the lowest portions of the original Watson Farm, west of Route 1.

Some years ago, from memory, he had drawn a sketch of the tunnel.  I saw his sketch for the first time on October 19, 2017. He says it is not drawn to scale.

Rob also had used an image from Google Earth (below) to draw in the location of the cow tunnel under Rt.1. He wrote in an email, "The big yellow dot marks the location of the tunnel's east end. ... The short narrow road in the photo that shows to be about 30 to 50 feet north of the yellow dot is actually the far end of the original Ingersoll Street that ended at Rt.1." 

Rob drew yellow line for cow tunnel position; looking north.

Update: Rob recently requested information from the Town of Danvers. He reports that Rick Rodgers, Town Engineer, and Miriam Contois, Technical Administrative Assistant, and others of the engineering staff for the Engineering & Electrical Division, Town of Danvers, were most helpful. They showed him "A Plan & Profile of State Highway in the Town of Danvers" – dated 1948.  He examined various prints depicting the overall changes made (or to be made) to Route 1 that include the stretch of roadway in the vicinity of the junction of Ingersoll St.

The 1948 plans show a "Cattle Pass " under Rt. 1 exactly where Rob had marked "cow tunnel" on the Google Earth image.
1948 plan with Cattle Pass; looking south.
In 2009 Rob had explored the area, trying to find evidence of the old structure. He found the east end of the tunnel (now blocked) and took these next photos.

After meeting with Rob, I wrote a summary of what we know about this cow tunnel. I've submitted the piece to the Danvers Herald, and hope it may draw comments from other people who have information about cow tunnels in Danvers. We'd like to learn about the history of this cow tunnel, when it was designed and how it was originally used.  

Mr. Richard Trask, Danvers Archives, recalled reading something about cows and Route 1 in Endicott family papers written early in the 20th century, when that farm was very active. He checked and found a May 1922 letter from attorney Ira Ellis to William C. Endicott mentioning "conditions on the turnpike running through your mother's estate" and questioning "whether or not the District Engineer had remedied the condition at the head of Ingersoll Street so that cows could be driven across the Turnpike...  If in reply to this letter you shall advise me that the cows cannot at present be driven to the pasture I will take up this matter with ... and will endeavor to impress upon him the urgency of the situation and the injury that is being caused through the delay in remedying it."

Friday, October 27, 2017


During my recent visit to Danvers, I explored two cemeteries and searched, unsuccessfully, for a third.

Somewhere on Spring Street, behind a modern house, are grave markers for ancestors in the Prince family.  In childhood, with my mother, I walked by those stones, not understanding their significance.  I've written previously about my surprised reaction when Mommy pointed to the name John Prince on a gravestone and casually commented that if I'd been a boy, I might have been named John Prince Nichols. Someday I'd like to find that stone again.  Older cousins have given me clues and instructions of where to walk, but I haven't yet succeeded in finding it.  I need a guide.

Meanwhile, I guided my friend Heather Massey to another old cemetery, one on Preston Street that is very easy to find. She and I had been indoors at a conference all day, and were eager for fresh air and exercise in the waning light of late afternoon. She kicked off her shoes and walked barefoot as I gave her a quick tour around historic graves of my relatives and of other Danvers families.

I was quite surprised to see that an old badly damaged tree is STILL standing, still alive.  I remember family gatherings around that tree we said goodbye to another family member some years ago. The tree looked terribly broken and unbalanced then; today it looks about the same.

The Nichols family gravestone also looks the same as I remember it.  Names are carved on both sides, starting with my great grandparents Andrew Nichols (1837-1921) and Elizabeth Perkins Stanley (a.k.a. Lizzie Nichols) and their eight children. They lived nearby at 98 Preston Street. Their daughter Mary Eliot Nichols, born in that house, became a beloved Danvers school teacher. She lived into her 90's, dying in the same bedroom where she had been born! I attended her funeral, in the parlor of that house, in 1966. Her sister Margaret, the last survivor of that generation, lived until 1968. Her funeral, too, was held at home in that parlor.

My friend Heather specializes in helping families care for their own dead at home, so these stories of old-fashioned family ceremonies are meaningful to her. 

Some of the monuments for other families had broken or fallen; some are laid flat on the ground. These two with the name "Swan" caught me eye.  I recall seeing an old business card from my great-grandfather with an address given as "Swan's Crossing."  I haven't yet learned the story of that name.

I had with me a directory of active cemeteries, and was surprised that the list for Danvers was quite long. Many cemeteries are clustered on Buxton Road, an address not familiar to me. With GPS, I found it. Here is a photo of the entrance sign on appropriately-named Cemetery Road, at the intersection with Rte 114.

One cemetery maintenance company is managing a number of Jewish cemeteries in that area, and advertising services for cleaning monuments.   

Some monuments are much less formal, and not even in cemeteries.  While exploring the upper end of Nichols Street last week, and trying to get a good view north to the hill where I had once lived, I walked through the woods and emerged near Rte 95. Nearby in the grassy area along Route 95 I saw this cross, commemorating the death of a young man on 8/8/2009:

In the distance, over the cross, early morning sunlight illuminated what is left of "Nichols Hill" – my former home and site of so many childhood memories.

Danvers visit

I want to share some photos and impressions from a recent visit to Danvers.
Ferncroft Pond, where I used to skate

My time was limited (spare hours around the edges of a conference October 18-20, 2017, at the DoubleTree Inn), but I thoroughly enjoyed brief excursions in the glorious fall weather.

With me for two days was a friend unfamiliar with Danvers, so I served as her tour-guide, showing her special places in the landscape of my childhood.

Some call this "Grandmother's Rock" 
The rocky outcrop just beyond the stonewall in the photo above is a familiar landmark on Nichols Street, an enduring remnant of the old "Locust Lawn" property: 35 acres of pastureland, woods, ski trails and sliding hills accessible to all the Nichols Street kids in the 1950's and 60's.

This house at 70 Nichols Street, just across the street from that rocky outcrop, was home to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hoberg and their four daughters. Janet, the eldest, was my age and we often played together. Mrs. Hoberg encouraged me when I was learning to sew. Janet and I spent hours in her sewing room making clothes for teddy bears and dolls. I sent this photo to Janet, who now lives in Florida.

Nichols Street, cut off by Rte 95, now ends not far north of the Hoberg house. Back in the 1940's it would have been possible to walk or drive north all the way to Ferncroft Road and the old ice pond. Nichols Street originally extended in a straight line towards the old Route 1, up and over the west side to Dale's Hill (a.k.a. Nichols Hill) and ending about where Ferncroft Road now begins. Today the drive from Nichols Street to Ferncroft Road is indirect, involving confusing loops of newer roads.

Even the south end of Nichols Street has been transformed. The little store I remember at the corner with Maple Street, where we bought penny candy, isn't at the corner anymore.
The store building, at 1 Nichols Street, seems intact; it didn't move, but the intersection of Nichols Street with Maple Street has shifted northward.  Here are a few photos. In a future post I'll write more about 1 Nichols Street.

The old candy store is now Nik's Giovanni's, selling pizza, kabobs, and soda. I did find a few small pieces of candy there, and bought some, just for nostalgia.

The old candy store is now Nik's Giovanni's
The address on the door of the store is still 1 Nichols Street, though the actual corner with Nichols Street is now many car lengths away.  On their brochure, they list "Route 62 Danvers, Across from Forest St" as well as their mailing address: 1 Nichols Street, Danvers, MA 01923.

Store at 1 Nichols Street

Rte 62 (Maple St) looking northwest from Nik's Giovani's. The entrance to
Nichols Street and Spring Street is now ahead on the right (where you see the truck's tail lights, and white sign). 
On the last day of my visit, I explored at my own whim, after a delicious breakfast at the New Brothers Restaurant and Deli in Danvers Square. I thank classmate Susan Kent Rogers for introducing me to that restaurant. We savored the good food and reminisced about various Danvers Square stores and experiences from long ago.

17th century house that once was on Spring Street.
I paused to take a photo of a VERY old house, now on Maple Street, but originally (before 1914) on Spring Street. I'm glad to see it protected by a new roof.

This 17th century house had been the home of my ancestor Sarah Warren Prince (later Osborne). She raised two sons, one of whom married into the Nichols family. I've been told of a family cemetery on Spring Street, but I was unable to locate it.

Next I drove oout Forest Street and explored the Endicott Park, walking along a lovely path in the woods. 

These stalls reminded me somewhat of the stalls in the old Locust Lawn barn.

Community gardens and fall foliage

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Oct 4 thoughts...

Danvers has been in my thoughts many times today, for a variety of quite different reasons. At breakfast time, our morning newspaper contained a story about the 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite put in orbit around the Earth.  I recall going out one night with my parents onto an open slope where we could lie down and see a large segment of the sky, watching for Sputnik as it passed by. We saw it! We were on a slope above Rte 1, facing west, looking at the sky above Pine Knoll and Ferncroft Road.

This afternoon I pulled up a few carrots from my garden, and recalled that I'd been planting Danvers Half-Long Carrots for many years. This year's crop hasn't grown very long, though. My husband says they must be "quarter-longs" instead. Still, they are tasty, and have a Danvers connection.

Several email messages today, from unrelated people, also involved Danvers. A student working on a research project is seeking information about a woman in my great grandfather's family, who lived in Danvers.  Another inquiry came from a friend in Falmouth, asking me what handouts and A/V equipment I plan to use during a workshop we'll be co-teaching October 19 at the Massachusetts Councils on Aging Annual Conference; she also wanted confirmation of where we'll stay during the conference, which happens to be in Danvers this year. She's not familiar with Danvers, so I sent her some directions, and a link to MapQuest showing the route from our proposed lodging (with a Danvers classmate of mine) to the conference center, which is on Ferncroft Road.  I reflected on the many changes that have come to that north Danvers landscape (and the network of intersecting roadways) since the night I lay watching Sputnik travel through that sky in 1957.

Meanwhile, an acquaintance from western Massachusetts, where I now live, traveled to Danvers to do a library workshop today.  I had sent her a brief note yesterday, and she replied this morning, saying that her expected audience would be middle school students. I hope she'll be a resource to help my local public library with some similar programming in the future.

All in all, Danvers seemed to be in the air today. This evening I read an email forwarded by Onye Kamanu's wife Lillie; it linked to a BBC News article about Nigeria, dated today, Oct 4, 2017. The article describes Onye's early excitement and pride about Nigerian independence, and mentions that soon after Independence Day (October 1, 1960) Mr. Kamanu gained a scholarship to study at an American university. The article doesn't mention Danvers, but Danvers was definitely his first introduction to America. My parents applied to host an African student for a one-month "homestay" to provide some orientation to American culture prior to the start of university classes and dorm life. Thus in August 1962 Onye Kamanu arrived from Lagos after a long ocean crossing, and was welcomed into our family. He stood on our front lawn, in bright sunshine, and exclaimed how odd it was to have "sun without heat!" Onye became well known in Danvers during the next four years, as he rejoined us for each holiday and break from college. Onye and I like to reminisce about those times in Danvers. I'm glad to see his photo in the BBC story.